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Multitracker: Widening the options or opting out?

A recent podcast from the School for Mothers featuring Jess Butcher really got me thinking about the lifestyle decisions that people make when they have caring responsibilities. With the corporate world built around the Ideal Worker model and many feeling increasing pressure to Lean In and fix ourselves it is no no wonder that people have started looking for alternative career tracks. The rise of the multitracker is at it's core a dynamic lifestyle decision based on a desire to stay working while balancing the obligations of different life stages.

In the corporate world the multitracker almost always starts off as an ideal worker but after a trigger event they then find that the traditional workplace no longer meet their needs and they start looking for alternative tracks, often ending up outside of the corporate world. A clear example of a multitracker is my friend Susan. She started off as an Ideal Worker, then shifted to being a freelancer after having children, then as her children grew up she went back to work but as a flexible worker and now finally is looking to be an entrepreneur as she moves into her mid-40s.

There has never been a better time to be a multitracker with an increasing options; flexible, freelancing, entrepreneur, flex networks and everything in between. With all this choice and a rising desire for a more sustainable work-life balance it is easy to see the appeal of opting out of the corporate track and opting into a more dynamic view of your career.

This lifestyle decision does not come without risks. A corporate career, for the most part, is relatively stable in terms of income and often comes with significant benefits both for you and your family. A corporate career can also give, though not always, a clear career path which can be very appealing for subject matter experts. Opting out into one of the widening multitracker options can led to a reduction or increased variability of income, which is tough and something that members of my direct family have experience first hand. You also need to work harder to build your personal brand outside of a traditional company structure.

Given that this lifestyle choice is more often than not a case of being indirectly pushed out instead of consciously opting out isn't it time that companies started learning the lessons from multitrackers? Some employers are beginning to create parallel tracks within their existing structures, for example the PWC Flexible Talent Network. This allows employees who are looking for a widened definition of career to stay within a looser company structure while accessing the benefits of being a freelancer in terms of flexibility. For the employer they get the double benefit of reduced employee cost and an on demand diverse and flexible workforce. While this is a great move to widened the definition of an Ideal Worker it does mean that we are creating exceptions to the mainstream rather than focusing on widening it's definition for all.

Employers need to acceptance that a squiggly, sometimes quite flexible, career is the new normal, even in the mainstream. They need to start learning the lessons from alternative career tracks to ensure that multitrack careers don't just happen outside of the corporate world.

If you enjoyed this post please check out my other blog posts on the topic including 4 Day Worker and Inclusive Agility.

All opinions are solely my own and do not express the views or opinions of my employer.


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